Presentation cancelled by author

Assessing the status, threats and future conservation action for the critically endangered Chinese alligator in Southern Anhui Province, China


Jonathan Rio
Samuel Turvey


Chinese ecosystems are facing intense biodiversity loss. Pressure on ecosystems is particularly severe in the Yangtze basin, a 220,000 km2 area supporting 300 million people in eastern China. The Chinese alligator (Alligator sinensis) is one of two extant species of the genus Alligator. Whereas the American alligator is of least concern to conservationists, the Chinese alligator is Critically Endangered, clinging on to a small stronghold in south-eastern Anhui province within the Yangtze basin. Estimates of the number of remaining wild alligators are less than 130 individuals. They survive as isolated populations, in a 433 km2 area - the National Chinese Alligator Reserve (NCAR). Despite its designation as a reserve, the NCAR is densely populated and dominated by agricultural activity, taking advantage of the fertile lowlands of the Yangtze floodplain and outcompeting the Chinese alligator. It has been estimated that half of the surviving wild alligators remain close to the main channel floodplain in marginal habitats directly adjacent to agricultural fields, where conflicts with humans occur. The remaining alligators have been displaced to even less favourable habitats at higher elevations to the south, in the valleys of tributaries draining the Huangshan mountains. Most conservation action to date has been directed towards the enlargement of captive populations, principally at the Anhui Research Centre for Chinese Alligator Reproduction. This captive population has more than 10,000 individuals. However, relatively little attention has been paid to the remaining wild population. Field data with which to assess the status and threats to the Chinese alligator, and to predict the effectiveness of management practices are limited, and therefore an alternative approach to standard ecological field techniques is needed. Here we apply local ecological knowledge to investigate the status and threats to the last remaining wild populations of Chinese alligator, using questionnaire-based surveys with inhabitants of villages throughout the NCAR. This research assesses the feasibility of strategies to support long-term coexistence of threatened megafauna, and human agricultural livelihoods in rural China. It also demonstrates the utility of novel questionnaire-based surveys, as robust sources of ecological data for informing conservation management practices.